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October 23, 2012

BlackBerry loses key US federal contract

US Immigration switches to the iPhone as BlackBerry no longer meets its technology needs

By Steve Evans

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) has lost a key federal contract, the latest blow to hit the ailing mobile company.

According to Reuters the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), will end its eight-year association with RIM and make the switch to Apple’s iPhone, the device that has caused so many problems for RIM.

It has put out a solicitation document for a contract worth $2.1m to supply iPhones to 17,600 of its workers. The document said the decision was made to go with the iPhone because of the tight control Apple has over the ecosystem and the benefits that brings over rivals such as Google’s Android, which the department also looked at.

Damningly ICE said RIM "can no longer meet the mobile technology needs of the agency."

"ICE also has evolving mobile law enforcement business requirements that require the use of more capable and dynamic mobile technology," the document added. "Analysis conducted by ICE has concluded that for the near term, Apple iPhone services offer the agency the best solution for mobile technology."

"Apple’s strict control of the hardware platform and the operating system … provides ICE with the greatest degree of control and management to ensure the most reliable delivery of services," the analysis added.

The report also detailed what ICE considers to be the failings of RIM, along with Nokia, over the last few years. It said Apple and Android are far ahead of the competition, with RIM and Nokia lagging behind. This means that third-party vendors, such as app developers, are focusing on Apple and Android, giving those two a much better ecosystem.

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"[RIM and Nokia] failed to innovate and consumers have rejected them," the report adds. "The net effect is that both firms have been relegated to laggards in the consumer market which has made them too risky for adoption as a "go-to" choice for enterprise use."

While consumers may have been turning away from BlackBerry devices it has long been thought that governments would continue to support the devices, particularly because of the security they can offer. However it seems that is no longer the case. The report also stated that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the US Coast Guard have recently switched to iOS.

RIM is now heavily reliant on its upcoming BlackBerry 10 rollout to reinvigorate the company. The new operating system has already suffered from delays and is now not expected to be released until early 2013. However by then it could be too late for RIM, whose market share, revenue and profit have all collapsed over the last few years.

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